Erin Anderson has just been awarded $55 million in a civil suit against a Marriott Hotel Group, its owner and a stalker by the name of Michael Barrett. Upon obtaining room information from the hotel, Barrett altered a door peephole and produced a nude video of the celebrity broadcaster. The video was leaked onto the internet and has been viewed over 16.8 million times since.
This is not the first time someone’s life has been damaged by an inappropriate or illegal picture or video on social media. The proliferation of smart phones and other technologies in our culture has led to all kinds of mischief. Perhaps you recall the sad accounts of those who have committed suicide as a result of cyber-bullying.
Words and actions can cause irreparable harm to others. I realize there are those who are so hypersensitive nothing we say or do is right. On the other hand, we should not assume we have the right to treat others any way we wish, just because it is within our power to do so.
The church I serve has been memorizing Colossians 3:1-17 as part of a special spiritual challenge. In it the apostle Paul writes, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8) As I memorized this passage I almost choked on verse 8. I have been guilty of everything in the list. You want details, you say?
My reaction stemmed from the realization God holds us accountable to His Word. I’m not suggesting His grace isn’t sufficient to save us, nor do I think we will go to hell for an errant word against another person.
But “they” might.
That’s right. The things we say and do to others might turn them away from Jesus, and their souls might be lost for eternity.
Granted, there are people in our world who use the words and actions of careless believers as a convenient an excuse for rejecting God. We have to be careful we don’t let those who do so unfairly burden us.
On the other hand, I am convinced I will be liable for my crimes against the lost. I haven’t figured out how I will pay for my sins. Maybe there will be a moment before I enter my eternal reward when I stand before God and am confronted with the lost souls whose hearts I helped harden.
No, I can’t assume ultimate responsibility for someone who refuses Jesus. But I do have a role to play in encouraging them to change their minds. When it comes to leading people to Christ, civil courts won’t hold us accountable for our missteps. In fact, most of our failures in this area go unnoticed by others…
…With one exception.
And it is the Exceptional One who makes all the difference.